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Los Alamos Monitor

The Los Alamos National Laboratory this month expanded the use of a fluorescent bulb-crushing machine to handle waste bulbs lab-wide. It's a move that could save tens of thousands of dollars in waste disposal fees and will prevent mercury from escaping into the environment.

The device is called a Bulb Eater. It attaches to the top of a 55-gallon drum and works like a large food processor.  Workers load fluorescent bulbs into a tube, which then sucks them through a propeller-like set of blades, pulverizing the bulbs.

"What you would see inside the drum is a fine glass powder and a couple of beat-up end caps. That's it," said Jim Stanton, a contractor working on the project for the Maintenance and Site Services (MSS) Division.

Fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury vapor and must be labeled, boxed, and disposed as a type of hazardous waste.

"Every box is a compliance point," Stanton said.  "In a landfill, if you get enough fluorescent bulbs you eventually get that mercury leaking into the environment."

But the Bulb Eater captures the vapor in a three-stage filtering process and neutralizes it by converting the vapor to mercuric sulfide, which is non-hazardous.

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Jim Slager, Homer School District 33-C

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"Excellent value for the money. The Bulb Eater® has immediately helped us reduce lamp storage and create a safer storage environment, while allowing us to add another item to our waste reduction efforts in the City of Auburn."

André Richardson Environmental Services, Auburn, AL